Allegations Never Presented to the Jury


One of the president’s justifications for the commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence is that Libby “was handed a harsh sentence based in part on allegations never presented to the jury.”

What the president probably doesn’t know is that this is how federal sentencing works. The jury determines whether the government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime with which he is charged (including all factors that increase the statutory maximum sentence).

The judge then can consider whether aggravating factors (factors that increase the defendant’s sentence within the statutory range) are proven by a preponderance of the evidence, and sentence the defendant to anything up to the statutory maximum based on those factors.

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